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The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): In November 2008 representatives of the farming industry, the veterinary profession and DEFRA officials formed the TB eradication group for England to make recommendations to Ministers on bovine TB and its eradication. Last week the group published a progress report, including a number of recommendations. The UK has also submitted a TB eradication plan for 2010 to the European Commission. In addition Scotland has recently succeeded in achieving regional officially TB-free (OTF) status.
I welcome the eradication group's report which shows the progress they have made since last November. I have had useful discussions with the group, and appreciate their hard work in starting to develop a long-term, risk-based eradication programme. They have made recommendations for changes that can be made now to tackle the disease through improved surveillance and control, which I have accepted and already started to implement. They have also considered and recommended measures to support farms subject to TB restrictions.
First, there is a change in our policy on inconclusive reactors to the TB skin test. To date we have allowed two re-tests of repeat inconclusive reactors. However this risks leaving infected animals on farm, so from 1 January 2010 only a single re-test of repeat inconclusive reactors will be allowed before they are removed and slaughtered. This change brings us in line with EU law, and follows a similar move earlier this year in Wales and Scotland.
Secondly, there is a change in the way that routine TB surveillance testing intervals are set. There are risks with the current approach of setting these on a reactive basis at parish level, in particular that it does not allow us to get ahead of the disease. The eradication group will be looking at more risk-based approaches. Since this will take some time to develop, an interim approach will be introduced for 2010. This is based on a more proactive assessment of TB incidence and risk. The resulting testing regime for 2010 will be more coherent
and consistent than in previous years and increase the number of herds in the high-risk areas which are tested annually, as well as increasing surveillance in areas at risk of TB spread by testing them every two years.
Finally, I understand the significant impacts TB restrictions can have. Following recommendations from the eradication group, animal health has introduced changes to make it easier for TB-restricted farms to buy replacement stock and sell their own surplus cattle, without materially undermining disease controls. Further measures to reduce the burden on TB-affected farms will be introduced in the next few months. Farmers under TB restrictions should also have access to the best available advice. DEFRA officials are looking at how to support the provision of professional advice for TB-affected farmers, to be introduced early in the new year.
DEFRA is providing an additional £5 million of funding for increased testing, compensation of TB reactor animals that are removed and slaughtered, and for advisory services. This will be found from savings elsewhere across DEFRA. There will be additional costs for some farmers, in terms of pre-movement testing requirements and TB restrictions; but I agree with the group that these are needed if we are to stop further spread and effectively tackle the disease.
The group's progress report addresses wildlife controls and the culling of badgers. I have had frank discussions with it on these issues and have agreed that they should remain on the group's agenda. I made it clear that the policy is that licences will not be issued to cull badgers for bovine TB control in England, and I will only revisit this under exceptional circumstances, or if new scientific evidence becomes available. The group said in its report that it cannot, at this stage, make a clear case for change on this basis.
The UK bovine TB eradication plan was submitted to the European Commission on 15 September. The Commission's decision on approval and funding for our eradication plan will be published by the end of November. The eradication group contributed to the England sections of the plan.
While responsibility for bovine TB is devolved, Scotland's newly recognised status will affect the whole of the UK. Measures will be put in place to govern movements of cattle into Scotland from the rest of the UK. All UK Administrations have been working with stakeholders to develop these, with measures expected to come into force in February 2010. My priority has been to minimise the impact on the industry in England, ensuring that the measures introduced are appropriate and proportionate, recognising that many parts of England are low risk. I have agreed with Richard Lochhead (Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment) that if there are outstanding details in November implementation should be delayed until final mutual agreement is reached.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): On 1 October 2009 DEFRA published guidance, in partnership with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, explaining how organisations should measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions as required under section 83 of the Climate Change Act 2008. This followed a public consultation exercise on the draft guidance which closed on 7 August 2009.
The guidance is available on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/business/reporting/index.htm and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Chris Bryant): On 12 August the Court of Appeal in London dismissed the appeal brought by former Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Premier Michael Misick challenging our proposed action to tackle corruption in the Islands. Two days later I announced that I had instructed the Governor to bring into force an Order in Council suspending ministerial Government and the House of Assembly for a period of up to two years. The Order also suspended the constitutional right to trial by jury in TCI, which provides the possibility in future of having trials by judge alone in the TCI Supreme Court in appropriate cases.
This was a serious constitutional step which the Government did not take lightly. But these measures were essential in order to restore the principles of good governance and sound financial management. It remains our intention that elections should be held by July 2011, if not sooner.
In his final report, Sir Robin Auld confirmed that there was information in abundance pointing to a high probability of systemic corruption and/or serious dishonesty in TCI. In Sir Robin's view this, together with clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and of general administrative incompetence, demonstrated a need for urgent suspension in whole or in part of the constitution and for other legislative and administrative reforms. Sir Robin also made preliminary recommendations including the institution of criminal investigations in relation to Michael Misick, and four of his former Cabinet ministers. He confirmed the recommendation in the interim report for the establishment of a Civil and Criminal Recovery Unit and the appointment of a special prosecutor.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Robin and his team for their hard work, determination and dedication which has produced such a detailed and comprehensive report. The Governor has taken the following steps towards ensuring that the principles of
good governance, sustainable development and sound financial management can be restored as quickly as possible:
An Advisory Council, chaired by the Governor, and a Consultative Forum, have been appointed by the Governor. Both bodies have now met and continue to do so regularly. They will ensure that the voice and views of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands continue to be heard.
A full review of the TCI Governments finances has been undertaken and, in discussion with the Advisory Council and following debate in the Consultative Forum, further measures put in place to limit public expenditure, increase revenue and bring the islands' debt under control. The Governor published a new budget at the end of September.
A range of (UK) Government-funded advisers is now in place to offer support and guidance not only to the Governor, but also to the public service. They are working in key areas of concern, as identified in Sir Robin Auld's final report such as public financial management, crown land, customs and good governance. We are looking to appoint others to assist in areas such as immigration and constitutional and electoral reform.
The Chief Executive has launched an extensive restructuring of TCP s public service. A major review of TCI Ministries has been completed to help provide more efficient and effective public services. This has included the creation of two new Ministries: Border Control, and Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. New Permanent Secretaries (all TC Islanders) have been appointed. Membership of statutory boards has also been updated.
Work is underway to strengthen a number of areas of public sector delivery. Emphasis is also being placed on improving the ethics and culture of public service, particularly with respect to transparency and ensuring that all public sector decisions are taken in line with clear published policies. Additionally, public complaints and redress procedures are being strengthened.
A special prosecutor, Helen Garlick, and her team have been appointed and paid an initial visit to TCI in August. They have presented their initial scoping project to the Governor.
The Governor has undertaken a series of town hall meetings and has visited all the main inhabited islands: Salt Cay, South Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos and Providenciales, as well as Grand Turk. This has given him the opportunity to explain to the general public what the interim Government means for them, to answer their questions, and to hear their concerns.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron): Hon. Members will be aware of the tragic death of a 14 year old girl in Coventry on 28 September soon after she had received the Cervarix vaccine. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.
At the inquest into the girl's death, the pathologist confirmed that she died from a large malignant tumour of unknown origin in the heart and lungs. There is no indication that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was a contributing factor to the death.
Before the results of the post-mortem were confirmed, the batch of vaccine in question was quarantined as a purely precautionary measure. Subsequently the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, voluntarily initiated a recall of the stock.
Over 1 million doses of the HPV vaccine gave been given in the United Kingdom since the programme began, and the vaccine has an excellent safety profile. It is estimated that the immunisation programme will save the lives of 400 women each year.
Information on the clinical trials of the vaccine is publicly available on the website of the European Medicines Agency, the body that advises on the licensing of the vaccine: www.emea.europa.eu/humandocs/PDFs/EPAR/ cervarix/H-721-en6.pdf
We have been transparent about the vaccine's safety since the programme started in the UK. Information on the MHRA's continuous review of safety and reports of suspected side effects are published each week on the MHRA website. The Commission on Human Medicines has recently reviewed the first year safety experience and advised that no serious new safety issues have been identified despite significant usage of the vaccine in the UK. A summary of this review has now been published on the MHRA website at: www.mhra.gov.uk/Publications /Safetyguidance/DrugSafetyUpdate/CON059804
The HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer, and we are committed to offering girls and young women protection against it. The vaccine has an excellent safety profile. Parents should continue to have confidence in this vaccine and ensure their daughters are protected against developing cervical cancer in the future.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): I am today placing in the Library of the House a copy of the HMIC report into the lessons learned from the recent Metropolitan Police investigation into Home Office leaks.
"Denis O'Connor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, supported by his small team of relevant experts, will undertake a review of the lessons learned from the recent Metropolitan Police investigation into Home Office leaks. The review will report to the Home Secretary".
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): Further to my statement of 16 September, about progress on the implementation of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, parliamentary approval for additional resources of £1,100,000 for this new expenditure will be sought in a winter supplementary estimate for the Ministry of Justice. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £1,100,000 is being met by a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): I issued the Government's response to the consultation paper "Controlling Costs in Defamation Proceedings" on 24 September 2009.
The high level of costs incurred in defamation and some other publication proceedings have been the subject of criticism and debate in the courts and Parliament. The Government are concerned that the risk of excessive costs may force defendants to settle unmeritorious claims, which in turn may encourage a more risk-averse approach to media reporting and is a risk to freedom of expression.
In the light of the responses to the consultation paper and recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Civil Costs, the Government asked the Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC) to consider draft rules to implement a number of measures to control costs in publication proceedings. The CPRC met twice to consider these proposals, and has approved amendments to:
require notice of after the event-ATE-insurance to be given to the other party with the letter before claim or within seven days of entering taking out insurance;
require additional information to be given as to whether premiums are staged and if so the stage at which increased premiums become payable and the level of insurance cover; and
in publication proceedings to introduce a 42-day period during which if the defendant admits liability and makes an offer leading to a settlement, the defendant is not liable for the ATE insurance premium.
In addition the CPRC suggested and approved a practice direction to implement a mandatory 12-month costs budgeting pilot for defamation and malicious falsehood proceedings. The Government will monitor the outcome of this pilot closely and hope that there will be close supervision, in particular, of hourly rates which are key to controlling costs in this area.
Rules to bring these measures into effect were included in the Civil Procedure (Amendments) Rules 2009 laid before Parliament to come into effect on 1 October 2009. Amendments to the pre-action protocols and practice directions also came into effect on the same date.
The Government have decided not to implement the other measures contained in the consultation paper at this time but will review them in the light of outcome of the pilot and recommendations made by Lord Justice Jackson's review of civil litigation costs. We will also consider whether further measures are needed in this area.
Copies of the response paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The paper is also available on the Ministry of Justice website at: http://www.justice. gov.uk/consultations/controlling-costs-in-defamation-proceedings.htm
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills):
On Thursday 24 September I deposited copies of "The Freedom of Information Act 2000-Statistics on
Implementation in Central Government: Q2-April- June 2009" in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
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